Brazil has more to offer than samba, soccer and supermodels. There’s a throbbing surf scene with all manner of warm water breaks set to beautiful backdrops, so we got a local ripper to give us the skinny.
Words by: Nilma Raquel
Fernanda Guerra is a happy grandma in her late 50s. She owns a sweet shop and surfs with her little granddaughters on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Most people wouldn’t know her from Eve, but she’s the pioneer of Brazilian women’s surfing having nailed her first wave in the 1950s on a wooden board, which looked like a canoe. But Fernanda never surfed with her daughters. Incredibly, that middle generation of girls growing up in the 1970s and 1980s didn’t surf, they just watched. They preferred to wait for their surfer boys in the sand wearing little ‘tangas’, tanning their bodies with coconut oil in times when there was no sun protection hysteria. There were of course some notable exceptions, such as Roberta Borges, Joinedille do Vale and Brigitte Meyer, the first Brazilian champions, and more recently Andrea Lopes, four times national champion, and Tita Tavares, with three national titles and the first Brazilian hope in the ASP World Tour. These girls were very much in the minority, suffering a lot of macho prejudice along the way, as they paved the way for the women’s surf scene of the 21st century.
Since 2000 girls have had a massive presence in Brazilian line ups. They spend money on clothes and surf accessories and buy into brands, which only used to exist for men. They take surf trips, book hotels in surf cities, want jobs in the industry and are an important piece of the Brazilian surf jigsaw. Circuito Petrobras, the only all-women championship, has been going since 2002. It had 80 competitors in its first year and now closes registrations with a maximum of 152 girls in each leg. The contest unveiled talents such as Silvana Lima, the third best female surfer in the world.
Considering the variety of waves along the 8,000km of Brazilian coastline it’s no surprise, as those searching for unforgettable sessions will find warm water beach breaks, lush vegetation, amazing animal life, friendly people, good food, exotic fruits and a vibrant nightlife. Brazilian surfers just wanna have fun. Welcome.
The five best places for surfing
1. FERNANDO DE NORONHA This archipelago is a National Park often described as ‘Brazilian Hawaii’. It rocks from December to March, but be warned it’s relatively pricey. Best breaks: Cacimba do Padre is the most constant break. You can face 10ft strong barrels during the season, where unsurprisingly wipeouts and broken boards are common. Beginners must try Boldró or Conceição. Eat and drink: Pousada do Zé Maria has one of the best seafood menus and in any bar make sure you have a caipirinha made with ‘pinga’, lemon or some other fruit you’ve never heard of. Where to kip: Pousada Teju Açu is a totally ecological place. If you want something cheaper, there’s a lot of homestays very near the waves. If the surf craps out: Sea life is stunning so go snorkelling or to the cliffs to see dolphins. At night: All the island goes to Forró (a typical rhythm and dance) in Bar do Cachorro. For relaxing: Pousada Maravilha is a “deluxe" place. Treat yourself to a massage. Watch out for: Crowds especially in February, the reefs at Boldró and the strength of Cacimba do Padre. Check: noronha.pe.gov.br and noronha.com.br
2. ITACARÉ Itacaré is in Bahia, the most hospitable place in Brazil with good beach breaks, for all levels. The biggest waves are June to September. Best breaks: The most famous is Tiririca, a small beach visited by the best surfers of the world during Billabong Pro, each August. It’s a constant peak all year round, with rights and lefts, and waves from 5 to 10 feet. Eat and drink: For incredible juices go to AlmaZen. If you’re tired of excellent seafood try Arabian food at Sahara. Try coconut water, which you can find everywhere, and for beer go to Casarão Amarelo or Caramelo. Where to kip: Sage Point is face to face with Tiririca Beach, and you can check the waves just by opening your window. For relaxing: Izis Nayara offers wonderful massages mixing shiatsu, ayurvedic and therapeutic techniques. At night: Pedro Longo road and Praia da Concha have bars and “forró" places with capoeira shows (a mix of fight and dance), like in Mar e Mel. Watch out for: At some breaks, take your own food and water, as there are no snack bars. Check: itacare.com
3. SAQUAREMA Itaúna beach in Saquarema has hosted memorable surf contests since the 1970s. It’s best visited May to October. Best breaks: There are waves on both sides of the big stone in the middle of the beach. Beginners must try the point in front of Saquarema Surf School. Where to kip: Pousada Maasai on Itaúna Beach (maasai.com.br). Eat and drink: For fish dishes, snacks and juices, go to Garota de Itaúna ou Restaurante Marisco. For a beer go to Bar da Regina, in Itaúna. If the surf craps out: Rent a bike and ride along the Saquarema’s Lagoon. For relaxing: Watch the sunset at Itaúna, with the silhouette of Nossa Senhora de Nazareth Church at the top of the hill. Watch out for: Itaúna is a wonderful but tough wave with treacherous currents. Talk to locals before your session.
4. SÃO SEBASTIÃO Soft sand beaches, clear green water, a rainforest backdrop and a 5km beach break, for all levels. Plus good restaurants, cool inns and the cutest boys in Brazil. Best visited April to October. Best breaks: Maresias has two main peaks: the Pracinha (Church Square), where there are a lot of locals, and Canto do Moreira (South), with strong and tubular 10ft waves on big days. It’s best to ride some place in between. Where to kip: Tubes, as the name suggests, is the surf inn of Maresias. Eat and drink: Terral has a famous PF (Prato Feito, a standard dish) with rice, beans, fish or meat, fries and salad for 15 reais. If the surf craps out: In Pracinha of Maresias there’s an amazing skate park. For relaxing: Take the Itu Waterfall trail for natural Jacuzzis. At night: Sirena is home to one of the coolest nights out in Brazil, with global DJs spinning drum n bass, trance and techno. Watch out for: Locals aren’t rude, but try to follow the basic rule of letting them go first. Check: brazilian-coast.com
5. GUARDA DO EMBAÚ Originally a fishing town, it boasts excellent surf conditions and untouched nature. Best breaks: Guarda do Embaú rocks in Brazilian autumn, which is March and April. From March to October, if you’re in Guarda, rent a car and ride other fantastic waves, such as Silveira and Ferrugem, in Garopaba, and Rosa, in Imbituba. Where to kip: Zululand Inn was built by a former pro surfer and model, Paulo Zulu. Eat and drink: Santa Catarina has wonderful oysters. Biruta Sucos offers great juices and sandwiches. At night: Los Frick has good Mexican food and live music. For relaxing: Angie Varela is a masseur who works on the beach during the season. Out of season, you can find her in Zululand. If the surf craps out: Siriú dunes for sandboarding, 15km from Guarda. Watch out for: Some places close at certain times of year, so check before going. Credit cards are barely accepted. Check: brazilsurftravel.com
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